It's tragic that religion and religious experience can be so tied to feelings of being judged and shamed. Especially when we so quickly fall outside the norm of what is accepted in a prevailing culture or religious organization.

I tend to think I have received the very best and the very worst that the Catholic Church has to offer. I resigned from the priesthood a little less than two years ago. I am a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest, and as I began to face the reality of my abuse at his hands, and the exploitation I suffered from a few other priests and a bishop, it became apparent it was time also to address where I stood in the church as a gay priest. The secrecy and shame that were the legacy of my abuse were perfectly mirrored in the secrecy and shame of having to hide my orientation at all times.

These days I am so angry about the inept attempts by the church to truly deal with the abuse crisis in an honest and transparent way, as well as its ever increasing homophobia and lack of openness and honesty about anything sexual, that I can't bear to take part in the life and practices of the church.

And yet I know I'm a deeply spiritual person -- and I had a number of positive influences among those who taught and guided me along the way. I'm doing a lot of sifting these days, what to keep and what to discard by way of practices and resources that are useful to me or not. I just googled the title of an article that was hugely influential in teaching me I am loved and accepted by God, no matter what, and found it's posted online. It was written at least 35 or 40 years ago by a Jesuit priest. Here's the link, if it could be helpful to you: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/courage.html .

The bottom line of what was planted in me by this article is the following line: "I am accepted by God as I am--as I am, and not as I should be." The better grounded I am in how much God loves me and how present God remains to me, the freer I feel to explore who I am and the kind of life that honors the unique personality God created me to have.

It was helpful and encouraging to see your post and the comments that followed. Thank you for your courage and honesty. I wish you well as you ask tough and honest questions of yourself and hope you will come to know and love yourself more deeply as you let the mystery of who you are be revealed bit by bit each new day.